All children experience anxiety or fear as they grow up. Your child may not want to be away from you when he or she is a toddler. He or she may fear thunderstorms in preschool and elementary school. However, most of these fears and worries are short-lived and easily soothed.
Children with anxiety face long-term worry or fear that disrupts their daily lives, making it difficult for them to succeed in school, develop friendships or participate in activities. Untreated anxiety can cause depression and other emotional problems in children.
Children can experience many different types of anxiety, including:
- Separation anxiety. Children with separation anxiety fear being away from their parents or their home.
- Social anxiety. Children who fear public spaces or social situations may develop selective mutism, a condition in which they refuse to speak in public.
- Phobias. Phobias are extreme fears of a specific thing or situation, like swimming or bugs.
Children with anxiety may become so worried or afraid that they develop physical symptoms. Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Refusing to go to school or other places
- Recurring stomachaches
- Trouble sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Not talking in specific situations
- Having many and constant worries
- Repetitive thoughts or actions
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of confidence
It is important that a team experienced in treating children's anxiety evaluates your child because the symptoms of anxiety are similar to the symptoms of depression and other disorders. Your child's anxiety can be addressed with an early and accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
Diagnosis of Anxiety
Doctors with Riley Child Development at IU Health perform thorough evaluations of children who may have anxiety. During the evaluation, the provider will take an extensive developmental history to find out about any health problems, what is going on in your child’s life and the history of his or her behavior. The provider will also observe how your child behaves and interacts during the appointment.
You may be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire or checklist. If needed, your child may be brought back for an appointment to undergo psychological testing, speech testing and/or a medical examination. This testing, often in the form of activities or games, lets your child’s provider identify symptoms and make an accurate diagnosis.
After the evaluation, you will receive a detailed report about your child's specific condition as well as a list of community resources that can help your child. The report allows all caregivers and healthcare professionals who care for your child to apply consistent techniques to help him or her improve.
We provide comprehensive care for children with anxiety at the specialized OCD/Tic/Anxiety Disorders Program with specialists in Riley Psychiatry at IU Health. Many children are treated effectively with cognitive behavioral therapy alone, which aims to change how children think and react about anxiety triggers.
Therapy is personalized to your child’s specific fears and anxieties to help him or her find ways to cope with and take control of his or her worries. If your child's anxiety does not improve after therapy, his or her doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medicines.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- Children with anxiety face long-term worry or fear that disrupts their daily lives, making it difficult for them to succeed in school, develop friendships or participate in activities.
- Untreated anxiety can cause depression and other emotional problems in children.
- Types of anxiety include separation anxiety, social anxiety and phobias.
- It is important that a team experienced in treating children's anxiety evaluates your child because the symptoms of anxiety are similar to the symptoms of depression and other disorders.
- Most children improve after participating in cognitive behavioral therapy. Medicines may also be used if therapy alone is not enough to control anxiety.
Support Services & Resources
Support Services & Resources
To learn more about anxiety in children, please visit these online resources.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The ADAA hosts a special section on anxiety in children and teens where you can find information on different anxiety disorders, tips for managing anxiety and other resources.
Visit the AACAP website for more facts on anxiety in children.
Doctors at Riley at IU Health participate in research to help improve how we understand and treat anxiety. These studies aim to discover the biological causes behind anxiety, new medicines to treat anxiety and how psychotherapies can be more effective. Learn more about how doctors conduct anxiety research and how your child can participate in these studies.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.